Trends every design company should understand. Otherwise you’re out.

Take-away: Design less, be honest and advise more

You (designers) have most likely sold a website or app to a client he/she could build or launch without your help. But you probably didn’t tell them. Earning a few extra bucks because the client wouldn’t notice what other options there were around.

I mean, if your client is a publisher, he/she doesn’t need a website designed by you as for instance Medium just launched a version specifically made for publishers. More of these developments, by Medium or others are shortly following. That makes a web design/development in the traditional way only harder.

Maybe selling something your client doesn’t need works in the short term, but it definitely doesn’t work in the long term and you need to tread carefully. You’re making yourself redundant if you don’t advise your clients correctly about these ongoing trends. In other words it will put you out of business if you don’t understand what is putting you out of business.

A custom website or online (web app) platform is so 2010

What’s the latest personal website you’ve designed for someone? Probably you haven’t. Because there are numerous free web design tools for personal websites out there. If you have, you’re a fool.

The majority of our clients don’t know how many apps/sites exist to design/develop a website themselves. Some do. For example our former client and Dutch publisher Das Mag ditched our original site and has nailed it by simply having a web shop as their main website (built on Shopify) and have the rest of their content living and breathing on Medium, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Because that’s where their market is, and these services develop and design better features than we do. Do they need more fancy bells? I guess not.

For each company accessibility is key. Take Buzzfeed for example: it’s logical that over 70% of content of Buzzfeed is consumed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat,… and not on their own website. In the end this number might rack up to 100%, same goes for other media companies that run most of their content online, like VICE which picks up to close to 80% over their eyeballs through Facebook.

So in case your client needs a website or online presence, simply offer them a Facebook Group for their community, a Medium site for blogging, a subscription/launch site built on Mailchimp or an Instagram account for their gallery. Sure in some cases we still offer a simple one pager, simply because this gives you a few extra options. In the end most cases just need a strong theme/identity and plan to make sure they’re being found and engaged with. And if they can’t care less: you can offer them to head over to fiverr.com.

Impact of artificial intelligence on interface design: hello conversational design, goodbye interface design

I’m not going to bombard you with heaps of facts on AI. Just read this and then this, that’s more than enough to get you caught up. But I am going to warn you how that the smooth on-boarding process you just designed, will be gone in the next year or so.

To keep things straight-forward: every major tech company is busy with developing a personal assistant for you and your users. Facebook’s version is for example called M. In fact it already exists in some cases. China’s WeChat already offers the opportunity to order a cab by texting a bot, buying movie tickets or ordering flowers for your girlfriend (note: Facebook offers this too now — things are going fast). There is already a bot out there that can schedule your meetings like a real personal assistant. Some chatbots like Lark, help you with losing weight, by chatting to you about what you should eat and asking you questions on your current diet. To get a glimpse what will happen in terms of news consumption Quartz gave a pretty good insight with their latest app.

Quartz personal news assistant is not yet what it should be, but you can feel what the future will bring us.

What will happen for us (interface) designers is a bit tragic. At the moment we’re continuously thinking of how to visualize a lot of information in an easy way (think map views, list views, menus) this will soon be a part of the past. We will simply ask our assistants to ‘look’ at ‘their interface’ and give us their output after we gave input in our own preferable way.

So I will ask my bot/assistant what train platform I should go to if I want the fastest train to Rotterdam. In the train I will ask my bot to make a reservation at a nice restaurant and have my assistant explain me the recommendations before I get there. While waiting I would ask my assistant to give me a brief on the elections and information on what my friends are doing. The interface at first will be a text field and answers by my bot in notifications, images or other forms (talking or maybe even touching).

Also note that is this instance the way we collect or distribute data didn’t occur by going to a new interface (like a web browser or a service app (like cab hailing or flight booking apps). Facebook (M), Google (Google Now), Apple (Siri), Amazon (Alexa) and Microsoft (Cortana) are already offering those assistants. And you’ll provide your data as consumer (location and payment details) and as producers (location cabs). The software does the rest.

Virtual Reality content production

Second big thing is Virtual Reality. In case you haven’t tried it. I highly recommend buying a Google Cardboard (they’re really cheap) and trying out several apps to get an idea. Otherwise you might be missing the boat. Literally everyone I showed couldn’t take their eyes off the documentaries made by VRSE (Check the Cuban Dancing!).

Google Cardboard set up

We believe that being a company that is working closely with large publishers (Sanoma, NRC Media, WPG Uitgevers,…) it’s important to help them understand in which way they can provide their subscribers with more immersive and valuable content. What is spectacular about Virtual Reality (VR) is that you can give people the option to be somewhere without really going there. You can give your users an experience they otherwise could not get at that time and/or place. Or to take it a step further: to create fake realities that show us how things will be in the future or how they were in the past. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t tried it yet. But VR is really putting you somewhere different and we think we can help distributing things that are otherwise hard to experience because they are maybe too expensive to see.

The process of collecting of data and making the collected data valuable for users

Now in the end designing comes down to bringing a user to their desired solution in the most convenient way possible. Whether that’s buying the best flight tickets, ordering a table at a restaurant or informing them what their friends have been up too. It’s about the least amount of input it costs to get to a significant output and how your software communicates that output.

So what is important to us is to zoom back out, consider the tools that are available to us and analyse how to use them in order to do our job the best we can. We believe that this comes down to being able to figure out which data you need from people to give them the best results and how these result look, feel and/or sound like. Because only once you start to understand these new dynamics you can start to build long term relationships with your clients.


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